Mercedes-Benz developed an electric version of the Vito, which is sold as the Metris in America, primarily for crowded European cities enforcing emissions-free zones. The battery-powered van (pictured) isn't scheduled to go on sale in the United States at this point, but Autoblog learned that could change in the coming years.
"The feedback we're getting regarding our electric vans already in the market is consistently positive. Looking forward, we feel pretty bullish," explained Marcus Breitschwerdt, the head of Mercedes-Benz's van-building division, in an interview with Autoblog. We were quickly told by a company spokesman that nothing is set in stone yet. "We cannot communicate any decision here regarding whether we'll sell it in America, or when."
Even if it doesn't go electric in the near future, the Metris will receive many of the improvements inaugurated by the redesigned Vito, including a digital rear-view mirror and a new screen for the infotainment system. One feature Mercedes-Benz ruled out for the American market is the new turbodiesel engine available in Europe.
"We are pretty sure the gasoline engine is the right one for the time being considering the current market situation," answered the spokesman when asked about the possibility of seeing a turbodiesel-powered Metris land in America. Most of the model's American-spec rivals are available only with gasoline engines, too.
Mercedes covered all of its bases in various markets by offering gasoline, diesel, and electric options, but it might not stop there. We brought up the idea of a hydrogen-powered van, to which Breitschwerdt replied "yes, of course, we are considering this." He stressed the company needs to be flexible in terms of the engines and powertrains it offers to meet ever-changing global demand, "and all types of electrification are under consideration."
The next new model we'll see from Mercedes-Benz's vans division is the second-generation Citan. It's the company's smallest model, competing in the same segment as the Ford Transit Connect, and it's again being developed through a partnership with Paris-based Renault. Its French sibling is known as the Kangoo. The odds of Renault bring its version of the van to the United States are extremely low, but Breitschwerdt wouldn't rule out selling the Mercedes-badged model alongside the Metris and the Sprinter if demand is there.
"It's certainly not the next thing to happen. But, as you said, the American market is shifting towards what you called 'European-style vans.' If we look into the general trend analysis, which points to further urbanization, the use of connectivity, online sales, and demand for instant delivery, then I certainly do believe a smaller delivery vehicle could right away get an important place in such a world. Once that time comes, we will be ready, but at this point we're certainly not there yet," he affirmed. We expect the next Citan will break over by the end of 2020.
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